The Tenth Island

Azorean and Portuguese immigrants call California “the tenth island,” and a great many settled in it's Central Valley in the 1960s. There they created a constellation of rural arenas for bloodless bullfighting. In bloodless bullfighting, with cavaleiros (Portuguese bullfighters) on horseback, the bull is taunted but not stabbed or killed. Bandarilhas (sticks tipped with Velcro) attach to a patch on the bull’s back instead of the traditional spears that stab the bull. Portuguese Americans are able to enjoy and maintain a spectacular tradition from their homeland while respecting federal laws, which prohibit killing an animal for sport. Framed by rural settings and audiences, the bullfighters’ costumes and colorful displays combine with their decorum and dignity in the ring to create riveting visual compositions. At a time when immigrants are being devalued at a national level, these photographs document dignity and beauty.

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